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Kullman Tapped To Lead DuPont

Kullman Tapped To Lead DuPontThe 1978 Tufts graduate and trustee will become president and CEO of the Fortune 100 manufacturing company, the crowning point of a 20-year tenure there.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.24.08] Ellen Kullman (E'78), who made history by becoming the first-ever female executive at DuPont, will now become president and CEO of the science-based products and services company. In her new role, she will continue to push DuPont's strategy of balancing innovation and productivity in a competitive marketplace.

"I need to own it and I need to drive it," Kullman told the Associated Press.

Kullman, who is a member of both the Board of Trustees at Tufts and the Board of Overseers at the School of Engineering, is the 19th top executive in the company's 206-year history. She succeeds current chairman and CEO Charles O. Holliday, Jr.

"Ellen's strong track record, market focus and leadership skills were the basis for the board's decision that she is the right person to lead our exceptionally talented management team and 60,000-strong global work force into DuPont's bright future," Holliday said in a statement.

In August, the 52-year-old Kullman was named one of the world's 100 most powerful women by Forbes. Last year, Fortune magazine cited her in its annual ranking of the most powerful women in business. In addition, Kullman is one of only six female CEOs in the Fortune 100 and the third current Tufts trustee who now hold a CEO position at a Fortune 100 company. The others are Pfizer head Jeffrey Kindler (A'77) and Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris.

In the company's statement announcing her promotion, Kullman emphasized DuPont's "renowned science capability, a rich pipeline of new products, the right productivity mindset and terrific market opportunities" as enabling the company to remain strong and "solve challenging global problems."

"Without the science, we won't have the differentiation in the marketplace," Kullman told reporters on a conference call following the announcement, according to the Associated Press. "It is what makes us who we are."

In 2006, Kullman was promoted to executive vice president of the company, a shift many industry observers perceived as a precursor to her latest move. She also served as a member of the company's office of the chief executive, a role that gave her oversight over four of DuPont's five business segments, plus its marketing and sales and environmental sustainability components.

"She's been groomed for the top spot for the last few years," Gene Pisasale of PNC Capital Advisors told Bloomberg News. "I think it's a savvy move."

"Kullman's move up isn't a surprise, and it's a smart decision by DuPont's board," blogged Patricia Sellers, editor-at-large of Fortune. "Inside DuPont, where she's spent 20 years, she's known to be both tough and popular with the troops."

As part of the transition plan, Kullman will be named president effective Oct. 1 and chief executive officer effective Jan. 1, 2009. She is also expected to be named chairman at a later time. While Kullman's new position as the first female chief executive at DuPont may be historic, she says that her gender is not relevant to her goals for leading the company.

"I'm not sure that being a woman adds or detracts from it," Kullman said, according to the Associated Press. "My managing style is unique to me and I'm just really looking forward to continuing to drive our company's strategy."

Kullman has never been one to shy from a challenge. In her blog post, Fortune's Sellers recounts Kullman's choice 10 years ago to switch positions and take charge of a new safety products unit.

"Absolutely everybody, including my husband, told me I'd be better off staying in my current job," Kullman told Fortune. "But I was intrigued, and I figured that if I didn't stretch myself then, I never would.

Six billion dollars in revenue later, Kullman told the magazine she did not regret her decision. "I learned how to create something from nothing."

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